No one asked for this. No one wanted this. No one was interested in this. Who’d have thought, then, it would nosedive so spectacularly at the box office? Scott Adams argued that you can never underestimate the stupidity of the general public but on this occasion, it seems that the general public has been one step ahead and dodged a very unwelcome bullet (time). The Matrix Resurrections is a dull, uninvolving, and utterly irrelevant film, derivative of its own history and dozens of films that trailed in its wake and it’s another reason to never even revisit the original, iconic 1999 The Matrix, a film that didn’t even need its two existing lacklustre sequels, let alone this woefully belated and misbegotten fourth effort.
The original Matrix is (was?) a bona fide genre classic. It redefined sci-fi cinema much as Star Wars did over two decades earlier (but in rather different ways). And much as the shine has been buffed away from Star Wars thanks to countless exhausting prequels, sequels, and spin-offs (it’s now little more than a colourful cash generator) The Matrix has been castrated and neutered by pointless sequels that have merely served to dilute the impact and cultural relevance of the original. Director Lana Wachowski’s hopes of a career resurgence after a string of poorly-received projects appear pretty forlorn in the wake of this saggy, tired, seen-all-this-before twaddle that’s so much a project of another time that it’s actually almost laughable.
There are, however, one or two fleeting flashes of inspiration here. The method by which Thomas Anderson/Neo (Keanu Reeves) is resurrected is fairly clever if a little tortuous (he’s been ‘reborn’ as a computer programmer who has previously created three successful Matrix video games, tasked now by Warner Brothers to create a potentially money-spinning fourth – how meta) and the fight scenes are still kinetic, pacey and well-choreographed. But that’s really pretty much it. The Matrix Revisited would surely have been a better title because this is just a Greatest Hits selection, all those things we liked and admired about The Matrix wheeled out again in a “remember how much you loved this?” style without an ounce of original thinking or any apparent attempt to move the idea forward into the 21st century. Bullet time, check, “I (still) know kung fu”, check, Mr Smith (now played by Jonathan Groff), check. The film also stuffs itself with footage from the earlier films just to remind us - because the public is stupid, right? - that this is the same series but only serving to remind us that this is just the same old, same old but nothing like as good. Even the decent action scenes are slightly compromised by a lazy innovation whereby Neo can now use the power of his mind (or something) to fling his opponents away by waving his hands in the air at them. The final frenetic motorbike chase sequence is rendered preposterous when Matrix avatars are instructed to throw themselves off roofs where they plunge like sacks of potatoes into the road as hundreds of others pour into the street in pursuit like extras in a cheap zombie movie.
The plot is absurd and largely impenetrable, the visuals just a rehash of a visual style we’ve seen before and any superficial pleasure we might get from seeing Reeves as Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss return as Trinity (and a slightly larger-than-life turn from Neil Patrick Harris as The Analyst, creator of the new iteration of the Matrix) are quickly snuffed out as the film smothers us in a tidal wave of its own smug self-satisfaction and the mistaken belief that we’ll welcome this stuff back into our lives like some long-lost old friend. The Matrix Resurrections doesn’t even try to be metaphysical or pseudo-intellectual, it’s just content to regurgitate a concept quite happily and adequately explored 22 years ago but with absolutely nothing new to offer either narratively or visually. Frustrating, futile, and foolish, The Matrix Resurrections is largely utter guff.
The Matrix Resurrections is in cinemas now.